A new generation of small, boutique providers of strategy and insight are emerging. Let's explore how they intend to mix things up...
These are the types of questions these agencies are asking themselves:
- What are our value systems and ways of working?
- How do we get young people's creativity into existing organisations?
- How might we provide a bridge between different project management approaches?
- What is a fair way to design economic exchange for our services?
- What do we stand for and how do we action this?
- Why is it important to stand for something?
- What types of relationships are we hoping to grow?
- What is the content of the curriculum we develop for our collaborators and co-creators?
- What are our fears about getting bigger as an independent agency?
- Where are independent agencies headed?
From looking across the websites and speaking to leaders of these newly emerging agencies, here is what we've noticed:
Anti-academicism: a bias against academic insight persists, with notions that it is unactionable. However, bridging this divide would unlock powerful new paths of insight
Cultural imagery: the visual language of 'culture' is becoming standardised: photos of tattoos, transgender people, neon signs, cocktails and so on
Defining the enemy: defining against an image of an enemy is common, for example: programmatic advertising, privileged agencies, industry consensus
Enduring value: the emphasis is on creating long-lasting value
Humbleness: humility is suggested, for example: recognising the difficulty of empathy, the challenges of our unconscious biases, 'rethinking' and 'unlearning', and the importance of letting go of ideas
Individualism: there is a strong focus on the individual people, often the founders, within the agency
Literature and philosophy: language associated with the 'literary' is appearing: some agencies have written poems, and there is a use of the term 'narrative'. Language associated with radical philosophy is being co-opted
Metaphorical domains: we're seeing terms like: 'wrestling' with ideas, providing 'magic', 'cutting' through, 'unlocking', and 'plugging in'. There are also media allusions, particularly cinematic blockbusters. Alas, there remains use of the scatological term 'bullshit’
Multidimensional improvement: it used to be the case that you couldn't be better, faster and cheaper than what came before. That's not the case anymore - you can be all three
Producing 'desire' and 'purpose': these two resonant keywords are used when outlining the services offered
Ocular centric: there is a strong emphasis on providing 'vision' and 'seeing' clearly
Postmodern irony: using retro images and pastiche is also commonly used to connote a playful attitude to culture
Protest culture: the lexicon of resistance is frequent, with terms like 'the 99%' being deployed
Progressive proof-points: projects that align with movements (such as veganism, women's rights) are spotlighted
Romantic lexicon: an intimate relationship with clients is suggested: from a passion for problems, obsessing over customers, to writing love letters to industries. It's interesting to see romance instrumentalised in this way
Rooted in research: the importance of a solid research foundation for strategy is clear
Services: the language of helping find 'opportunity' is used frequently, and this is done through: strategy, solutions, imagination, culture, creativity, storytelling
Ways of working: process and frameworks are often shared upfront and given a creative name. Way’s of working include: embracing difference, collaboration, openness, sharing, hard-working, exploration, expansion, refinement, distillation, immersion, customer creativity, power of community, and cultural drivers
White men: connected to the above, our survey so far has noticed that positions of power are largely occupied by white men